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That new Harris County vaccine signup page sure is popular

If you didn’t get through on Day One, keep trying.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

More than 49,000 people have managed to get onto Harris County’s new COVID-19 vaccination wait list Tuesday despite technical issues that diminished access for some to the county’s website.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office said 49,287 people were able to sign up as of 4:30 p.m.

Health officials said there has been an “overwhelming amount of people” trying to use the website at ReadyHarris.org.

“It’s down. It’s been down. We have had it crash several times,” said Martha Marquez, a spokesperson for Harris County Public Health said earlier Tuesday. “I know that, as we speak, they’re working on it.”

See here for the background. I assume this was mostly a first-day crush, but 49,000 people is roughly one percent of the Harris County population, so there could be quite a few more busy days ahead. I also assume that they’ll be able to scale the site up as needed, which in today’s world should be easy enough to do. In the immediate term, lack of vaccine supply is a looming problem, but that should be addressed in the slightly longer term. Has anyone tried this yet? How’d you do?

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18 Comments

  1. DOUGLAS M PIERRE says:

    I was able to get on despite have difficulties at first. My browser was not supported. I finally tried the Microsoft Edge browser and able to sign up for myself and my wife. Kudos to the Judge.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    I wish they had more explanation of why everyone is running out of vaccine. I’m sure Trump probably shut down the pipeline on his way out the door, but shipping should have restarted quickly.

    Meanwhile, I wish that the media would stop listening to that nit wit, Fauci. First he said, no mask needed, then he said mask can help,then he said mask very important, now, he says double mask is best. Did it really take the greatest mind in public health a year to figure this out? He is drunk on his own fumes.

    I’ve been trying to wear a clear plastic bag over my head, but it does blur my vision a bit. But that should provide a good barrier as good as a double mask.

  3. Flypusher says:

    One of the first lessons any STEM student should learn when starting the process of doing actual research is that your initial hypothesis may not survive contact with the data you collect. The fact that you continuously fault Dr. Fauci for being willing to change and update advice when the data warrants it, while at the same time you’re been full of praise for an ignoramus like Trump who never admits error, no matter how obvious, tells me that you have no clue about science, and you are not to be taken seriously.

  4. Manny says:

    Thank you Flypusher for stating what needed to be stated.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    I have never praised Trump. I only stated that his administration proved that the system works.

    Fauci has not done any research. He never mentions the data.

    I, in fact, reviewed the Danish study. A more robust randomized trial that showed no efficacy for masks. Also, I read the Marine recruit study that was in New England Journal of Medicine. These point to the fact that this virus will spread, no matter what. In Larry Kramer’s open letter to Fauci, you can see that Fauci admitted he’s an incompetent idiot. He also must have lied about his athletic background, because, as we saw when he threw out the pitch, he can’t throw at all.

    We were told two weeks to flatten the curve. The curve flattened, but we will still be restricted for over one year. Then they told us wear a mask. After 9 months, they say wear two masks. Now that the vaccines are here, they say you are still going to need to wear a mask and stay hidden. We have a president who says that we can’t do anything to stop the trajectory of this pandemic. If Trump said that, the media would’ve been going nuts. Now we hear almost daily about a new variant, which is either more contagious or deadlier, or perhaps resistant to the vaccine or antibodies.

    This leaves us with no hope. Either this virus is going to spread unchecked and kill us all, or we will all sit at home hoarding toilet roll while the billionaires get richer and richer, and we’ll wait on a $600 check from the government.

    and by the way, maybe it’s time to start wearing two seat belts when we do go in a car.

  6. Lobo says:

    RE: “My browser was not supported.”

    Excellent illustration for the need to beta-test, and have a customer feedback loop when trying out something new. Also see the comments of Nancy and Jack on the earlier post.

    LESSON TO BE LEARNED IN A NUTSHELL

    Don’t roll it out to the entire general public. Not right away.

    Think “soft opening” of a new restaurant, to use a foodie analogy. The staff won’t be ready for the onslaught on grand opening day because everything is not yet running smoothly, the coordination and workflow not yet optimized.

    Another example of the pilot program approach:

    Chris Hollins’ field-testing of drive-thru voting in the primary run-off election last summer, incl. customer (voter) response. — In related news, nice to see Democrats and Republicans voting unanimously on Harris County Commissioners Court for new and better voting/ballot processing technology while at the state level GOP is working to destroy democracy. Note also that the new voting hard- and software will be tried out first in lower-turnout elections, not in general elections.

    CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM

    I am a self-professed fan of Strongwoman Dora aka La Exploradora (Jules, are you out there?), but that doesn’t mean that her public communications and her team’s policy actions shouldn’t be critically scrutinized.

    ELECTRONIC BREADLINE & PROMISE OF RANDOM LOAVES: IT’S SUB-OPTIMAL

    The waiting list sign-up should have been restricted to the priority group(s) initially.

    Why? – Because the same logic applies as does to the vax distribution itself: Limited supply, here in the form of admin. capacity (processing electronic and telephonic applications) and excessive demand. If the supply/capacity can’t be increased in the short run, the worst thing to do is to stimulate demand by inviting the entire population of 5 million souls to apply, not to mention utilizing the local media as a megaphone. The currently designated priority classes are themselves way too large for the limited supply of available vaccine (see Texas Tribune coverage of the topic), and that in itself poses a challenge in terms of rationing and queuing within that group.

    Second mistake: Publicizing a definitive start date for applications-intake to begin, and not restricting the applicant pool in any way (ie, promoting applications by all who want a vaccine irrespective of whether they currently meet the priority-class criteria). That predictably results not only in a massive self-selected pool of locals now primed to apply, but a massive volume all at one point in time (spike, surge), rather than being spread out over time: ergo, website crash/all operators currently busy & call back later.

    Third mistake: Creating the illusion that those not in the priority group have a realistic chance to win in the lottery (“random process”) and having them believe that they have a better chance to be drawn the earlier they register (rather than being electronically pushed to the non-priority subset at the bottom of the pile).

    Another problem: Lack of Transparency

    Any talk of “weighting” by eligibility status tells us nothing, while implying that there is a good reason for non-priority individuals to apply now. The weighting could be the equivalent of 99.99% for the eligible priority group, and 00.01% for all others. But the “all-others” will be an even larger group than those currently assigned priority status. The corresponding chances of being selected may be okay for a real lottery, but that analogy is a bad one because with the vaccination close-to everyone must “win” to achieve human “herd” immunity.

    HOW COULD IT HAVE BEEN DONE BETTER TO SPREAD OUT THE LOAD?

    1. Only allow those in the designated priority classes to apply for the waitlist for the first one or two weeks (or whatever, depending on capacity), and announce that all others will be eligible, starting on ____ (date). Given the malleable criteria for pre-existing/risk conditions for those under 65, you will get some cheaters and rule-benders, but a large number of non-priority folks will refrain once they understand that they have a chance close to nil to be selected now. The simplest eligibility criterion for enforcement purposes, of course, is age, which would also be very efficient for staggering purposes, starting with higher ages and moving down commensurate with availability of vaccine.

    2. Set up a scheme to stagger the applicants in the priority class (later, the general public) based on some simple objective criterion, like phone area code (713, 281, etc) or part of the DOB (e.g. even/odd date DOB can register on even/odd dates, or date of the month (born on the 28th of the month, eligible to register today, Jan. 28, 2021, although that would be inequitable as to those born on a 31st).

    Even/odd registration date matching could also be based on residential ZIP code (which could of course itself be an allocation criterion, though King Abbott and General Paxton might say NO).

    A variant approach would be to tell the public that if they apply on a date that corresponds to their ZIP code or DOB, they will receive preference, i.e., assigned a higher “weight” in the secret formula used in the lottery that obviously is not truly comparable to a random drawing. This would avoid the need deny application that come in on the wrong day, and might still be moderately effective in spreading the volume and “flattening the curve” in applications, ie avoid an unmanageable surge.

    The more explaining (and mass communicating) is necessary for a particular scheme, of course, the more confusion it may create. When trying to influence mass behavior, there might be merit in the maxim:

    Keep it simple, stupid.

    From that perspective, the message should have been: Registration for waiting list currently open for 65+ (or staggered ages) only and will continue thereafter, Category 1B to be added 1 (or 2, or whatever) week(s) from now. Plus: Assurance that you can register or call any time during the registration period for your priority group (thereby avoiding the perception that it’s a contest in which the early birds only catch the worm).

    PS: All of the above is debatable. Any thoughts?

  7. C.L. says:

    Jason, I say go back to that plastic bag over your head. Sounds like that may be the only solution to your issues. Also, you already wear two seat belts, dipstick – one across your lap and one off your shoulder. Why did the industry go to that configuration ? May have something to do with it being a better defense…

    Wolfie, here’s the problem with the multitude of options you’ve presented. Any individual can go on any County website and sign up for a vaccine slot. While the website will ask you if you have any preexisting conditions that would warrant your priority (diabetes, obese, hypertensive, Fear of Fauci, etc.), when you show up to get your shot, no one is asking you for evidence you have any of those conditions – they just stick you in the arm and tell you they’ll see you in a couple weeks for the follow up shot.

    Maybe they should have just implemented a system based on the terminal digits of your TDL or SSN, ie. folks with a TD ending in 00-04 can get vaccinated on the 1st day of the month, folks with a TD ending in 05-09 can get vaccinated on the 2nd day of the month, etc. Makes about as much sense as any other methodology.

  8. Jason Hochman says:

    You are right! I do have two seat belts already.

    Sounds like you are easily persuaded by Fauci. But maybe you can explain. There have been masks for centuries. The Covid virus may be novel, but there have been other corona viruses before. And respiratory viruses of a similar size that can spread by aerosol, droplets, etc. For example, cold and influenza. Why do they keep telling us more masks? Ever wonder why they didn’t figure this stuff out during the centuries of mask use?

    Also, if they lied to us by telling us not to wear masks, they should be held accountable. Instead, Biden makes Fauci his main advisor, when he should be arrested for mass murder. Of course Biden now says that nothing we can do can change the trajectory. He’s surrender to the virus and just going to stand back and let us all kick the bucket.

    Can you explain your faith in these charlatans?

  9. Flypusher says:

    JH-I have never praised Trump. I only stated that his administration proved that the system works.

    But you have said this: “While he is not great, I finally realize that we need Trump in there for another four years”, and confirmed that you were not joking. That certainly is an endorsement, but I won’t go into the hairsplitting of how much praise that might be. Instead I’ll amend the objection- you hold Fauci to a very high, very rigid stand, but you don’t apply those same standards to Trump, even thought his errors and deliberately dishonest choices have caused so much damage.

    JH-Fauci has not done any research. He never mentions the data.

    You’re privy to all his lab meetings and scientific talks? Cool. What else can you dish?

    JH-I, in fact, reviewed the Danish study.

    Authors? Journal?

    JH- He also must have lied about his athletic background, because, as we saw when he threw out the pitch, he can’t throw at all.

    He’s 80 years old. What a small and petty man you are to harp on that.

    JH- Now that the vaccines are here, they say you are still going to need to wear a mask and stay hidden.

    Until those vaccines get into enough people’s arms. The end to this is in sight.

    JH- We have a president who says that we can’t do anything to stop the trajectory of this pandemic.

    Lie. We can stop it, but it will get worse before it gets better. You can’t instantly reverse the trend anymore than you can turn an oil tanker on a dime. He’s not telling the dangerous lie that it will go away like magic!

    JH- Also, if they lied to us by telling us not to wear masks, they should be held accountable. Instead, Biden makes Fauci his main advisor, when he should be arrested for mass murder.

    You equate a conclusion based on early data that turns out to be incorrect with a choice to deliberately lie? That may be the craziest thing you’ve said here, and you’re piling up quite the hit list.

    CL- Also, you already wear two seat belts, dipstick – one across your lap and one off your shoulder. Why did the industry go to that configuration ? May have something to do with it being a better defense…

    Not to mention that cars these days also have airbags. One keeps testing, keeps observing, keep refining conclusions.

  10. Jason Hochman says:

    Flypusher, the Danish study was in Annals of Internal Medicine, the author is Bundgaard. The study finds no statistical significance for masks. The authors do list the limitations, including subject reported compliance, inconclusive results, as well as the study did not attempt to determine whether a mask would stop an infected person from spreading an infection to others.

    The CDC had also posted a review paper of mask use during influenza outbreaks. The papers reviewed showed no efficacy for masks. IN fact, studies of masks in surgery showed no difference in wound infections with or without mask.

    But I agree, it is impossible to prove that masks simply don’t work at all. But let’s just say that they aren’t going to save tens of thousands of lives, or the other wild claims that are being made.

    Fauci admitted that he lied, because he didn’t want people buying the masks that medical workers needed. Of course, we could have been making these homemade jobs from the beginning. When we really had a chance to contain this. If he lied, he should be held accountable.

    It is not a lie that Biden said we can’t do anything to stop the trajectory. Although, I think that the full statement was “to stop the trajectory over the next several months.” Or something like that. Imagine if Trump said that. He would have been savaged, ridiculed, blamed, called a science denier, a lying, no empathy madman.

    C.L. thanks for the link, but from the CDC page:
    Data regarding the “real-world” effectiveness of community masking are limited to observational and epidemiological studies.

    Observational studies are not great science. Without a control group, without randomization, the results are just not very meaningful. If you have a chance, you can check out this paper:
    https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article

    We have known about masks for centuries. There have been many epidemics of respiratory viruses. So this shouldn’t require new research.

  11. Manny says:

    Jason, what is it with Trumpies that they feel they have to persistent with constantly lying? As the Republican Congressman stated, they have gone crazy describing the Trumpies.

  12. Flypusher says:

    “…the study did not attempt to determine whether a mask would stop an infected person from spreading an infection to others.”

    Given that the working hypothesis of the benefits of wearing masks is that reducing spread from an infected person is the main benefit, that’s a gaping hole. Big enough to drive a truck through.

    “It is not a lie that Biden said we can’t do anything to stop the trajectory. Although, I think that the full statement was “to stop the trajectory over the next several months.””

    That part you so conveniently left out and now you remember to include it completely changes the meaning. It’s the difference between “never” and “it’s going to take time.” There’s a term for what you did- a lie of omission.

    “Imagine if Trump said that. He would have been savaged, ridiculed, blamed, called a science denier, a lying, no empathy madman.”

    No, people most likely would have been shocked speechless at hearing him utter an unpleasant but necessary truth. His science denier rep was already earned with the touting of hydroxychloroquine in the absence of evidence, his nonsensical ravings about bleach and UV light, and the Sharpie altered hurricane maps. Oh and the whole notion of nuking hurricanes. His lack of empathy was already well established with “It is what it is” and whining “Covid, covid, covid!” as if he were channeling a Jan Brady tantrum. As for lies, there are over 30K on record.

  13. Jason Hochman says:

    Flypusher, so, let me get this straight. If Trump had uttered the unpleasant truth that we can’t alter the trajectory of the pandemic over the next several months–this is what you’re saying–if Trump had said that, he would have been absolved of the hundreds of thousands that he caused?

    Mayor Turner loves to say “it is what it is.”

    I did leave out the difference between “never” and “it’s gonna take some time.” However, do you have faith in the timelines these folks are feeding us? Ten months later, we’re still in two weeks to flatten the curve.

    The “working hypothesis?” Is there one? So, if the benefit is that reducing the spread from an infected person is the reason, then I should go out and get infected, so that my wearing a mask has purpose. Because, I am sick and tired of being treated like I am some diseased pariah, especially when it doesn’t do any good. Of course, we then hear about how more than half of the “cases” are asymptomatic, which is balanced by the frightening stories about how if you get Covid, you are likely to die from it….

  14. Flypusher says:

    “Flypusher, so, let me get this straight. If Trump had uttered the unpleasant truth that we can’t alter the trajectory of the pandemic over the next several months–this is what you’re saying–if Trump had said that, he would have been absolved of the hundreds of thousands that he caused?“

    That’s an extremely creative interpretation there. Short answer no, because there’s no forgiveness or absolution without repentance, and just admitting that you can’t instantly alter the disease trajectory doesn’t fit any recognizable definition of repentance.

    “Mayor Turner loves to say “it is what it is.”

    If he uses that as an excuse for lying to his constituents about something that causes them great harm, I’ll criticize him too. Context matters, but Trumpers sure do have trouble grokking context.

    “I did leave out the difference between “never” and “it’s gonna take some time.” However, do you have faith in the timelines these folks are feeding us? Ten months later, we’re still in two weeks to flatten the curve.“

    The guidelines are a place to start, and they are far better than all the denial and incompetence we saw from the previous administration. I will make my judgement on the results later this year.

    “The “working hypothesis?” Is there one? So, if the benefit is that reducing the spread from an infected person is the reason, then I should go out and get infected, so that my wearing a mask has purpose.”

    I have a better idea. How about you stop being such a whiny selfish asshole, participate in this 100 days of masking experiment (which is a worst a minor inconvenience) in the spirit of unity and being a good citizen, and see what the results are?

  15. Lobo says:

    VACUOUS BLAH-BLAH

    Regardless of who says it, “It is what it is” is a meaningless tautology (arguably worse than a tautology, strictly speaking). Not worthy of discussion even because it has zero policy content, and no analytic value.

    In terms of connotation and context, and any putative rhetorical value in political discourse, the phrase conveys resignation/fatalism/nihilism. Exactly what we do *NOT* want in a political leader/ policymaker elected to look after the common good, not to mention meeting the multifold challenges of crisis management.

    The criticism applies to Trump as much as to Turner.

  16. Jason Hochman says:

    Flypusher, the entire “you’re selfish” thing is a propaganda statement that has been studied, and, I am not expecting a politician to care about me. Just like I don’t believe that a stripper thinks I am a super hot superstar. The 100 days masking experiment, is, I think, predictable. Let’s look at California, which has had mask rules for months now. (Which the governor and speaker of the US House of Representatives have ignored when convenient.) Let’s look at California cases that are surging…

    So now you are saying that it Trump repents and apologizes to everyone, that he won’t be responsible for all of the Covid deaths anymore? I know I am not very smart, but I can’t follow how we heard from everywhere that Trump was responsible for every single death, with his stupidity and self preservation, but now, we can accept a president telling us that for at least the next few months, there’s nothing we can do to alter the trajectory and people will get sick and perhaps even die, because things will get worse before they improve. But somehow the science still supports that if Trump was just a better president, all of the deaths while he was in office would have been prevented. I am sorry I just can’t grasp this.

  17. C.L. says:

    Plastic bag on head.